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The Best Fly Fishing Waders for You

aquaz waders

Aquaz isn’t a huge name in the US—yet. But they should be based on their wader performance.

My first pair of “waders” was a set of cracked rubber hip-boots my dad wanted to throw out. After a summer of wet-wading at the family cabin—while watching my dad stay warm and dry in his chest waders—I jumped at the chance to be a bit more like him.

Thankfully, I’ve upgraded waders since then. I’ve either reviewed or bought upwards of two dozen waders by now. Somewhat ironically, I now look forward to wet-wading season when I get to walk my favorite high-country streams without sweltering inside a few layers of the latest-and-greatest waterproof material.

What I’ve learned, though, is that finding the best waders for you and your fishing depends far more on where and how often you fish than it does spending a bunch of cash. As with everything in fly fishing, there’s no true “best” wader for everyone. Hopefully, after reading this review you’ll be better equipped to find the pair of waders that’s best for you.

The Best Fly Fishing Waders for You

Picking the best fly fishing waders for you depends on a few key factors: where, how often, and when you fish. The best waders for a steelhead junkie in British Columbia likely won’t be the best option for a trout bum in Colorado. The waders I’d pick for myself aren’t the ones I’d recommend to someone who spends 20-30 days a year on the water. Picking waders isn’t like picking fly rods; it’s much more of a case-by-case basis.

As you look for new waders (or maybe even your first pair), I’d strongly suggest you keep these three criteria in mind. They’ll help you find the perfect pair that should last you the better part of a decade.

Where You Fish

This is the first and most important detail to consider when shopping for new waders. As a Rocky Mountain native and lover of the high country and small streams, I’m often hiking for a few miles to get to my favorite fishing spots. Many of those streams and lakes are off-trail so I spend a lot of time bushwhacking.

Since I fish so often in areas where I’m hiking long distances or through tough terrain I need waders that are abrasion and puncture resistant. I look for waders made with fabrics like Cordura or Gore-Tex that have a longstanding history of thwarting the elements.

That level of durability likely isn’t warranted for the angler who most often fishes from a drift boat or wading any of the easy-to-access tailwaters and rivers here in the West. Those settings just aren’t as hard on waders as brush-busting in the high country is.

How Often You Fish

Another important factor in picking out new waders is how often you plan to fish. I’m on the water around 200 days a year, between guiding and personal fishing. Knowing that, I opt for waders that are built to be more breathable, durable, and comfortable for long periods of time.

Waders are just like any other piece of clothing—they’ll wear out eventually. But just like you wouldn’t go with a Walmart-special hoodie for working in the North Dakota oilfields, you shouldn’t opt for a bargain-bin pair of waders if you plan on spending a fair amount of time on the water.

There’s no magic cut-off date for when you need to buy more expensive waders. Generally speaking, though, you get what you pay for, and if you know you’ll fish just about every weekend it’s likely worth the money to buy a pair that’ll last longer.

Now that’s not to say you can automatically equate cost with quality, especially with waders. However, the best waders I’ve ever used aren’t cheap. I’ve been privy to the product testing process for a few recent pairs, and brands aren’t kidding when they say they ask guides to do their worst to prospective waders. The only downside to that much in-the-field R&D is that brands have to recoup their costs, which is where we anglers come in.

So while the initial price might sting remember that you’re paying for the product, its longevity, a warranty of some sort, and all the time and effort that went into creating the waders in the first place.

When You Fish

If you’re a year-round angler then you need a pair of waders built with year-round use in mind. The Orvis Ultralight Convertible waders are an excellent choice for the summer but don’t provide much insulation come winter or early spring.

Or if you wet-wade as often as you can (which I do) then you’ll need a pair of heavier-duty waders to keep the cold out once winter comes.

Most waders do a fantastic job of insulating year-round, but some models are built to be as lightweight as possible. That removes some of their ability to insulate, which is why I recommend you take into consideration the time of year you fish when buying new waders.

Boot-foot vs Stocking-foot

You’ll usually see waders advertised in one of two configurations: boot-foot and stocking-foot. I’ve never owned a pair of built-for-fly-fishing boot-foot waders. Most folks I know who own a pair of boot-foot waders have them for duck hunting.

Stocking-foot waders are the go-to choice in fly fishing because it allows you to find the perfect boot, too. Boots are hugely important in wading, and getting stuck with a boot you can’t remove on a pair of waders is a bit of a raw deal. I’d highly suggest opting for stocking-foot waders.

A Note on Warranties and Materials

Any decent pair of waders should come with a warranty. A warranty against manufacturer’s defects is the absolute minimum you should look for.

I’ve filled warranty claims on waders from all but one of the major brands. Even with a four-year-old pair, I received quick fixes to the problems. In some cases, my waders were patched and repaired beyond what I can do myself with a bottle of AquaSeal. In others, waders were completely replaced. That’s left up to the manufacturer’s discretion, but it should certainly be an option for any waders you buy that cost more than $350.

As far as materials go, you’ll hear a lot of marketing fluff in the wader world. That comes with the territory. Most of it is useful, but a lot of it is hyperbole. Understanding the materials used in waders doesn’t matter unless you can feel the fabric with your own hands.

You want something with some heft to it. Think of the difference between a canvas outfitter tent and something you used back in your Boy or Girl Scout days. The former is far preferable to the latter. Ignore the hang-tags about the breathability of this fabric or the quick-drying properties of that one. Focus instead on the fabric that feels the most durable for your own fishing situations.

Wrapping Up

The best pair of fly fishing waders for you will be the one that most adequately meets your needs. While cost is often the biggest factor in picking a pair of waders, don’t let that deter you from finding the ones that’ll last you the better part of a decade. For most anglers, waders are a once-every-six-years purchase.

Don’t forget to consider when, where, and how often you fish, either. Those three factors are the most important when picking out a new pair of waders. They’ll dictate whether a pair lasts for a season or for multiple.

Personally, I’ve fished the same pair of waders for a while now—I honestly don’t remember when I bought them. They’ve been great, and they’re just finally starting to show signs of serious wear. I bought them after talking to a guide friend of mine who—you guessed it—fishes about as often as I do, in the same places I fish, and he does it year-round.

Recommended Waders

This is a list of waders that I’ve either personally used and reviewed, or they’re a product that someone I know and trust swears by. This list is a good starting point if you’re just now looking to get a new or your first pair of waders.

Orvis Ultralight Convertible Waders

orvis ultralight waders

The Orvis Ultralight waders are among the lightest currently on the market.

  • Budget-friendly
  • Light
  • Durable

The Orvis Ultralight Convertible waders might be the best combination of features and affordability currently on the market. I’ve had a pair of these since Orvis released them, and I love the convertible feature. On those blisteringly hot summer days we get here in the Rockies, converting my waders from chest to hip makes for a much more enjoyable experience. And, the fabric is surprisingly durable for how light it is. With the Orvis warranty behind these, they’re a great get for $398.

Aquaz Dryzip Chest Waders

  • Convenient zipper
  • Durable fabric
  • Great price

If you want zip-front waders backed by rock-solid fabric, then Aquaz Dryzip should be on your shortlist. Aquaz is a brand that’s newer to most American anglers, but they’ve been building waders for over 30 years. They’ve also made waders for big-name brands under a private label agreement and have experience making wetsuits for the military and scuba diving. At $425, these Dryzip waders are an absolute steal.

Redington Escape Waders

redington escape waders

Durable, breathable, and affordable —everything you want in a wader.

  • Lightweight
  • Redington warranty
  • Wallet-friendly price

Redington’s Escape waders are a great value for their price. At $249.99, they’re cheap enough to not hurt the wallet too bad, but not so cheap that you’ll worry about them springing a leak too quickly. I’ve had a pair of these for years now, and it’s one of the few loaner pair of waders I offer clients when guiding. I’ve had to touch them up with a bit of AquaSeal, but other than that, they’ve been a workhorse pair of waders.

Simms G4 Pro Waders

simms waders

These are the most durable waders I’ve ever owned.

  • Bombproof construction
  • Heavy-duty for year-round comfort
  • Excellent Simms warranty

The first nice pair of waders I bought myself was a set of the G4 Pros from Simms. That was almost a decade ago. Since then, I’ve yet to have a serious issue with them. They’ve withstood fights with barbed wire, rocks, thorny bushes, and long hikes through rugged country. They’re warm in the winter, and keep me dry during summer. In short, they’re everything you want in a wader. The only issue is their price of $799.95. That’s a big ask, but you likely won’t have to replace these waders for a least a decade.

Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders

patagonia waders

Patagonia has a devoted following, and for good reason—they make fantastic gear.

  • Legendary Patagonia quality
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

This is one of the few pairs of waders on this list that I haven’t personally used. However, I know enough guides and avid anglers who swear by the Patagonia Swiftcurrent that I couldn’t just leave them off this list. They’re built with Patagonia’s legendary eye for quality, they’re lightweight, and they’re extremely durable. Add to that Patagonia’s industry-leading warranty and you have the makings of a truly great product that might actually last you a lifetime. Patagonia’s Swiftcurrent waders retail for $649.

Other Options

If none of the waders above really struck your fancy, then consider any from the following list. These are great options that I’ve either used myself, or know and trust someone who did.

This list should help you find a great pair of waders at a price that doesn’t make your wallet shudder. Go visit a local fly shop, try some on, and find your next pair of waders before your next fishing trip.